When you get down to it, Labcorp, a global life sciences company based in Burlington, North Carolina, does one thing: it helps patients and healthcare providers make informed decisions. It achieves this through its combined diagnostics and drug development platform, which has an enormous impact on the health and well-being of millions of people around the world. What’s more, the company’s work is exactly what is needed to combat a global pandemic.
“We have over 70,000 employees around the world, and every one of them wanted to do everything they could to help get the world through the pandemic,” says Adam Schechter, Labcorp’s chairman and CEO.
Within days of the coronavirus’s emergence in the U.S., the company had mobilized a dedicated COVID-19 response team to help expedite testing and treatments. In early March 2020, Labcorp became the first commercial lab to receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization and to offer COVID-19 PCR testing; and in late April 2020 it was the first company to deliver a home testing collection kit, via its Pixel by Labcorp offering.
These accomplishments, which the company has continued to build on over the past year, offer a glimpse into the culture of innovation that landed it on Fast Company’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2021.
Labcorp drew on its 50-plus years of experience improving health and lives to quickly respond to the pandemic. The company has been involved in the development of nearly all the top-selling pharmaceutical and biotechnology products—including 85% of the drugs approved by the FDA in 2020—and it was already administering 500 million diagnostic tests per year before the pandemic.
After Labcorp rolled out the first versions of the COVID19 test, its employees didn’t sit on their hands. Over the course of about a year, they went from per forming a few thousand tests per day to per forming more than a million COVID-19 tests per week at the peak of the epidemic. To date, the company has performed more than 44 million COVID-19 tests. They also made improvements to the testing to make it more convenient for patients and to help deliver results more quickly. For example, employees validated that a smaller swab would be just as effective as a larger one, and they invented a way to draw DNA from samples that took about 30 minutes, instead of a few hours.
A PRINCIPLED APPROACH
Labcorp has also been committed to making testing accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. “We tried to make the test available through every mechanism possible, including drive-through locations, federal health agencies, hospitals, retail pharmacies, telemedicine providers, doctors, and employers,” Schechter says. And for those who met CDC guidelines, including anyone experiencing mild symptoms, there have been no upfront, out-of-pocket costs for testing.
As the world emerges from the pandemic, Labcorp promises to draw on its innovations of the past year to continue helping patients. “Using robotics to increase our testing capacity, creating a patient registry to better understand testing outcomes, giving access to our testing via our website—all these things are here to stay,” Schechter says. “And what we’ve learned is that we can do things faster than we’d ever thought possible.”